Feeling “green guilt?” Don’t be so self-absorbed.
Once upon a time — approximately 2.4 billion years ago — when the Earth was young, steamy (with volcano eruptions) and intoxicating (with over 70% of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere), there lived a bacteria called cyanobacteria.
She floated in a world ocean surrounded by her merry single-celled cousins, busy transforming water and nitrogen into food through slow, anoxygenic photosynthesis, never wishing for anything else. But she felt she was different. That she could change the world.
According to scientists, cyanobacteria was responsible for the Great Oxidation Event, (dubbed Great Oxidation Catastrophe), which completely changed the Earth's atmosphere, inverted its whole biosphere inside out, and resulted in the first mass extinction.
What made cyanobacteria special was her new, more efficient way to produce energy — using light to transform water and CO2 to sugar and oxygen. With an overwhelming quantity of source material around and hardly any competition, she was sure to reign supreme forever. But the oxygen that she was pumping out uncontrollably had kickstarted the evolution of entirely new, multicellular forms of life — who in mere billions of years evolved into us.
Cyanobacteria is still hanging around — you can find her in damp soil, lakes, and ponds, where the water is calm. It produces toxins that poison the water, so gardeners and aquarium owners attack her with hydrogen peroxide as soon as she appears.
I wonder if she misses the good old days.
The plotholes of human exceptionalism
What I find the most disturbing in environment-related discussions — both among tree-huggers and climate change deniers — is the notion that the human race is separate from the rest of the natural world. We are either the worst — and should immediately commit mass suicide and/or give up our way of life to go ask forgiveness of every mosquito ever killed; or we are the pinnacle of creation — and entitled to unlimited use of all the Earth resources.
Neither one of these points of view makes any sense.
If we weren’t so self-absorbed, we…